John Nevil Maskelyne is one one of England’s most notable magicians and ardent skeptics. His lifelong feud with the Davenport brothers, a pair of fraudulent spiritualists from the States, is the stuff of legend. But, as The Magic Circle explains, not only was Maskelyne a master magician, professional watchmaker, groundbreaking author and gifted inventor, he was also indirectly responsible for a British term for relieving oneself that persists to this very day.
One of Maskelyne’s many inventions was the first mechanical toilet door toll lock. The device required the user to deposit a penny before they could deposit the contents of their bladder, leading to the popular euphemism for urination, “to spend a penny.”
While Maskelyne may have invented the first mechanical pay toilet, the concept had been tried as early as 74AD, when Roman Emperor, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, tried to charge citizens to use Rome’s public toilets. He was roundly mocked for the decision by critics, to whom he responded with the now famous phrase, “Pecunia non olet,” or, “money does not stink.” Maskelyne may have felt the same way.
World-famous stage show The Illusionists just wrapped up its two-week-long engagement at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Don’t worry if you missed it, though; the venue has since posted two specially-produced videos featuring inventor Kevin James, offering tricks and insight aplenty.
The first, posted above, is an interview with the man who devised the Floating Rose effect, where he talks about the difference between deceiving young children and grown adults, and how magicians are the most trustworthy people on the planet.
The second video, posted below, is a four-minute video where James proceeds to repeatedly fool a poor spectator with a coin and a magic glass bottle.
With this run in North America finished, The Illusionists begins its tour across Europe and Africa. For more information on where the show will end up next, check The Illusionists‘ official website.